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Mar 19, 2008 04:58 PM

[Manchester - Altrincham] Juniper - review

It’s a couple of years since we were last at the Manchester area’s only Michelin starred place but thought we better get in there before Paul Kitching leaves for Edinburgh at the end of April. Cuisine is of the wacky Heston-esque variety – plenty of foams and odd flavour matchings.

I have the memory skills of a gerbil and in the absence of either an online menu or a real one that I could take away for reference, the following underplays the wackiness of some of the combinations.

However, tables are already set with a small dish of olives and another of those Japanese rice cracker thingies that posh restaurant serve instead of Walker’s crisps. Menus were perused – three starters and three mains, plus a “special” on each course. Orders were placed and, in due course, a shot glass amuse arrived – grape juice with smoked bacon. There were a couple of more solid bits in the bottom of the glass – a bit of gherkin and something else.

My starter was described as “scallops” - surely then a contravention of the Trade Descriptions Act to serve a single scallop. It came with pastrami, wild rice and nuts – the nuts adding to the sweetness of the scallop and providing a good change of texture. I liked this.

Herself’s starter was a cream cheese and chive risotto with black truffle. Described as “perfect” - and herself knows her risottos. She then had the “surf & turf” – a slow cooked fillet with white asparagus, smoked salmon puree, sliced trout and a kipper glaze. There were also cashew nuts and couple of slivers of crisped root veg. An interesting dish with no single flavour overpowering – but also one where no single flavour shone through. Meat was a disappointing in flavour.

My main was lamb – rump, breast and merguez with peas and cashew nuts (again). This was extremely underwhelming. And the very deep bowl in which it was served made it a damn nuisance to eat.

Things bucked up with pre-dessert. Shot glass of mango and cornflake milk with berry and Lovehearts – provided with straw so you could noisily suck up the Loveheart grain. Brilliant combination and good fun. Regular readers will know I am a passionate advocate of north west produce – so a tad disappointing that the Lovehearts were the only identified local item on the whole menu.

Mrs H then had an excellent lemon curd tart – good crisp pastry, very lemony filling. I had a trio of desserts – a savoury cheesecake (that wasn’t , it was sweet and very nice), a crème brulee with apple and a veg that I can’t recall (and couldn’t taste) and a winter trifle (with tomato). I enjoyed these and whilst the actual descriptions sounded most wacky, they proved to be just good non-wacky desserts. We finished with good coffee and petits fours (sliver of custard tart and truffles).

We’d had an aperitif, Mrs H had a half bottle of a nice Burgundy and we’d had a bottle of water. Bill, with service (which had been excellent), came to just under £150.

Glad we’ve been. No-one else in the area has been cooking in this style. However, wouldn’t be in a rush to go back - although we will when the new chef is in place – just to see.

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  1. Fun reading, John. It seems that Scotland has so many great chefs these days... and now it will have another 'interesting' one added on. I guess it's back to toast and water for you two! I'm hoping to get to Edinburgh later this year as a young cousin and family have moved there from NY. I think the culinary scene there has changed a great deal since my last visit about 7 years ago. Mrs. H.'s risotto has given me ideas for tonight!

    1 Reply
    1. re: zuriga1

      Never been to Edinburgh but it's on the list. We chatted briefly with Kitching's partner (who runs front of house). They havnt got anywhere yet but a looking for premises which they can turn into a "restaurant with rooms".

    2. Another aside snippet. At one point, the chef came out to chat to one of the tabels (obviously someone he knew). We couldnt hear all the conversation (much as we tried) - but of particular interest to us was to hear him recommending they go to Hibiscus on a forthcoming trip to London. Couldnt agree more.


      5 Replies
      1. re: Harters

        I'm starting to think about my birthday dinner - coming up, alas, again so soon. I'd love to try Hibiscus.. but then there's Passione and so many others on the list.

        1. re: zuriga1

          Difficult one to call, June.

          Hibiscus was wonderful.

          Passione was the second furthest we've travelled specifically for a meal and we weren't disappointed.

          Furthest, BTW, was flying Manchester to Amsterdam for a rijstaffel at Tempo Deloe, stopping overnight and flying back next day ( I might post a thread on one of the topical boards and see how far folk are actually willing to travel).

          1. re: Harters

            i thought Passione was good, but not that good. the lamb fillet with mint was a little flat after the truly amazing wild mushroom risotto. the ricotta cannoli were ok.

            i hope i can squeeze in juniper before he l;eaves but lovely wfe is pregant and katie is such hard work i dont think i can manage to maintain the smile or keep off the chill wind she summons up as she breezes through the restaurant.

            as an aside, i flew from manchester to los angeles then drove to san francisco to eat once again at the house of nan king. maybe not specifically, but almost.

            i have twice travelled to barcelona from manchester to eat at, in no particular order, commerc 24, taxidermista (outside), bar pinotxos in boqeuria, santa maria.

            i thought passione was good, but not that good. the lamb fillet with mint was a little flat after the truly amazing wild mushromm risotto. the ricotta cannoli were ok.

            1. re: pecandanish

              I went to the House of Nan King twice when we were in San Francisco and we were only there for a few days! One of the best Chinese meals I've ever had.

              In Barcelona I *love* a place called Cinq Sentis. We had the tasting menus both times, and I am eternally grateful to them for introducing me to Pedro Ximinez sherry.

              Agree that Passione is good but not amazing. Long time since I went there though.

              1. re: greedygirl

                Hi Hounds, sorry for interrupting, but please help us keep our regional boards on-topic by discussing the relevant restaurants on the appropriate boards. Thanks!